There Are Benefits to Being Loyal

IN SOME countries, children love to tease a playmate by sticking burs onto his woolen pullover. The burs attach themselves to the wool, and whatever the playmate does​—whether he walks, runs, shakes, or jumps—​the burs cling. The only way to get rid of them is to pull them off one by one. To youngsters, that is all great fun.

Of course, not everyone appreciates burs on his clothes, but everyone is amazed at their ability to stick. A person who is loyal has a similar quality. The loyal one stays close to someone in an enduring relationship. He sticks faithfully to the duties and obligations of that relationship even when circumstances make it difficult. The word “loyalty” brings to mind virtues like trueness, allegiance, and devotion. However, while you might appreciate it when people are loyal to you, do you have the strength of character to be loyal to others? If so, to whom should you be loyal?

Faithfulness in Marriage​—A Basic Need

Marriage is one area where loyalty is vital but where, sadly, it is frequently lacking. A husband and wife who remain faithful to their marriage vows​—that is, who stay together and each work for the good of the other—​have taken an important step toward finding happiness and security. Why? Because humans were created with a need both to show and to receive loyalty. When the marriage of Adam and Eve was performed in the garden of Eden, God declared: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife.” The same was to apply to a wife; she was to stick to her husband. Husband and wife were to be faithful to and cooperate with each other.​—Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:3-9.

Of course, that was thousands of years ago. Does that mean that loyalty in marriage today is old-fashioned? Most would answer no. Researchers in Germany found that 80 percent considered faithfulness in marriage to be very important. A second survey set out to discover the most desirable characteristics in men and women. A group of men were asked to list the five qualities they most admired in women, and a group of women listed the five qualities they most admired in men. The virtue most highly prized by both men and women was faithfulness.

Yes, loyalty is part of a strong foundation for a successful marriage. Yet, as we saw in the preceding article, loyalty is more often praised than practiced. For example, the high divorce rate in many lands gives evidence of widespread disloyalty. How can marriage partners counteract this trend and stay loyal to each other?

 Loyalty Makes Marriage Durable

Loyalty is shown when marriage mates look for opportunities to confirm their devotion to each other. For example, it is usually better to say “our” rather than “my”​—“our friends,” “our children,” “our home,” “our experiences,” and so on. When making plans and decisions​—whether regarding housing, employment, child rearing, entertainment, vacations, or religious activities—​husband and wife do well to take into account the feelings and opinions of the other mate.​—Proverbs 11:14; 15:22.

Loyalty is shown when each mate makes the other feel needed and wanted. A married person feels insecure when the mate acts in a too friendly manner with someone of the opposite sex. The Bible counsels men to stick “with the wife of [their] youth.” A husband ought not to allow his heart to desire the admiring attention of a woman other than his wife. Surely he should avoid becoming physically involved with another woman. The Bible warns: “Anyone committing adultery with a woman is in want of heart; he that does it is bringing his own soul to ruin.” That same high standard of faithfulness is expected of a wife.​—Proverbs 5:18; 6:32.

Is faithfulness in marriage worth the effort? Of course it is. It makes the marriage more stable and lasting, and each of the partners benefits as an individual. For instance, when a husband is faithfully committed to the well-being of his wife, she has a feeling of security that brings out the best in her. The same is true of the husband. His resolve to be loyal to his wife helps him to develop a commitment to righteous principles in all areas of his life.

If a husband and wife go through a difficult period, loyalty will make both feel secure. On the other hand, in a marriage lacking loyalty, a frequent reaction to problems is to separate or seek a divorce. Such a step, far from solving problems, often means a transition to other problems. Back in the 1980’s, a well-known fashion consultant parted from his wife and family. Did he find happiness as a single man? Twenty years later, he admitted that the parting left him “lonely and disturbed and lying awake at night wanting to say good night to [his] children.”

Loyalty Between Parents and Children

When parents are loyal to each other, there is a good possibility that this quality will rub off on their children. Later in life, children raised in a loyal, loving family will find it easier to act responsibly toward their mates as well as toward their parents as these suffer the disabilities of old age.​—1 Timothy 5:4, 8.

 Of course, it is not always the parents who become infirm first. Sometimes a child needs faithful care. This was the situation of Herbert and Gertrud​—both Jehovah’s Witnesses—​for over 40 years. Their son, Dietmar, suffered all his life from muscular dystrophy. For the last seven years before his death in November 2002, Dietmar needed care and attention around the clock. His parents lovingly cared for his needs. They even installed medical equipment in their home and underwent medical training. A fine example of family loyalty!

Loyalty Is Vital for Friendship

“A person can be happy without a marriage mate, but it’s difficult to be happy without a friend,” observes Birgit. Perhaps you agree. Whether you are married or single, the loyalty of a good friend will warm your heart and enrich your life. Of course, if you are married, your closest friend should be your marriage mate.

A friend is not just an acquaintance. We may have many acquaintances​—neighbors, colleagues, and people we meet now and again. True friendship requires an investment of time, energy, and emotional commitment. It is an honor to be someone’s friend. Friendship brings privileges, but it also involves responsibilities.

Having good communication with our friends is a must. Such communication might be dictated partly by need. “If one of us has a problem, my girlfriend and I telephone once or twice a week. It’s great to know she’s there and is willing to listen,” explains Birgit. Distance need not be a barrier to friendship. Gerda and Helga live thousands of miles apart, but they have been good friends for over 35 years. “We write regularly,” explains Gerda, “relating experiences and describing our innermost feelings, be they joyful or sad. Mail from Helga makes me extremely happy. We are simply on the same wavelength.”

Loyalty is vital for friendship. An act of disloyalty can shatter even long-term relationships. It is common for friends to advise each other even on confidential matters. Friends will speak from the heart without fear of being belittled or having their confidences betrayed. The Bible states: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.”​—Proverbs 17:17.

Since our friends influence how we think, feel, and act, it is important that we make friends with people whose way of life is compatible with our own. For example, be careful to cultivate friendship with individuals who have the same beliefs, the same moral viewpoint, and the same standards of right and wrong as you do. Such friends will help you to reach your goals. Besides, why would you want to be close to someone whose standards and morals you do not share? The Bible shows the importance of choosing the right friends when it says: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.”​—Proverbs 13:20.

Loyalty Can Be Learned

When a child learns to stick burs on someone’s clothing, he will likely want to play the game over and over again. The same can be said of a person who is loyal. Why? Because  the more we practice showing loyalty, the easier it becomes. If a person learns early in life to be loyal within the family, he will later find it easier to develop friendships based on loyalty. In due course, such strong and durable friendships may pave the way for loyalty in marriage. This will also help him to be loyal in the most important friendship of all.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love Jehovah God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:30) This means that we owe God total loyalty. Being loyal to Jehovah God brings rich rewards. He will never let us down or disappoint us, for he says of himself: “I am loyal.” (Jeremiah 3:12) Indeed, loyalty, or faithfulness, to God brings everlasting rewards.​—1 John 2:17.

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The loyalty of a good friend will warm your heart

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Loyal family members care for one another’s needs